Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Tip #95: Don't forget classification requirements

By Dan Parkes (Director/editor)

All feature films, short films and trailers which are shown theatrically must be classified in the UK and most other countries have similar systems in place. Classification is also a legal requirement if you are selling your DVDs. The only exemption you might be able to consider is if it is for educational purposes (i.e. a documentary or school resource). But in most cases you are going to have to look at getting it classified.

1. Censorship
Censorship -sometimes defined as the suppression of knowledge or ideas to prevent the circulation of offensive or problematic material, is often in itself a controversial issue for filmmakers with the system being used and abused (filmmakers aiming for a particular classification to appeal to a certain audience) and criticized for preventing free speech.

As filmmakers however we need to acknowledge it as part of the production process. Ever since the coming of sound in 1927 there has been a call for censorship starting with the Hays Code of film classification introduced in 1934, that was later replaced by a new classification system in 1968 run by the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America). In Britain we have local councils and the BBFC.

2. Local council classification
If your film is screening in a local film festival then it is likely that the festival organisers will have a blanket classification to cover all the films to be shown. But in some cases the local council will also classify the film itself. This happened to us for a local screening as part of the Brighton Festival, and in this instance there was no charge for us. The film was given a 15 rating.

The BBFC (British Board of Film Classification) is a non-governmental organisation, funded by the film industry and responsible for the national classification of films within the United Kingdom.

At the time of writing a DVD or Blu-ray feature and trailer has a standard fee that comprises of a handling fee of £75 per submission plus £6.00 per minute for a full length of work (which would also have to include any extras such as the Making of).

Based on this rate Ambleton Delight (the film only) would have cost £723+VAT, a total of £867.60 to be classified (you might also have to take into consideration packaging and cancellation and further review fees, plus the cost of reviewing disc extras). If you are looking at self-distribution then this is an important expense to consider.

4. Certificates

There are seven main certificates that your film might fit within:

All ages admitted, there is nothing unsuitable for children over 4.

PG Parental Guidance
All ages admitted, but certain scenes may be unsuitable for children under 8.

12A (Cinema only)
Considered to be unsuitable for very young people. Those aged under 12 years are only admitted if accompanied by an adult, aged at least 18 years, at all times during the motion picture.

12 (Home media only)
12A-rated films are usually given a 12 certificate for the VHS/DVD version unless extra material has been added that requires a higher rating. Nobody younger than 12 can rent or buy a 12-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game.

Only those over 15 years are admitted or can rent or buy a 15-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game.

Only adults are admitted. Nobody younger than 18 can rent or buy an 18-rated VHS, DVD, Blu-ray Disc, UMD or game, or watch a film in the cinema with this rating.

R18 (Restricted)
Can only be shown at licensed cinemas or sold at licensed retailers and only to adults, those aged 18 or over.

5. Exemption
While there is no legal obligation or any scheme for labelling material that might be exempt from classification (such as educational works) there is a symbol similar to the BBFC certificates that you can use here (click to enlarge):

6. Think ahead
It is important to think ahead during production to what classification your film may end up with. You do not want to alienate your audience -for example the average audience that enjoys period drama romances might be turned away by a 15 or 18 rating.

For more information on BBFC and certificates please visit their official website here.

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